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@MyKitchenTable: Friday December 17, 2021

Washington, December 17, 2021 | Billy Fuerst (202-225-3761)
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December 17, 2021

@MyKitchenTable: Friday December 17, 2021

Dear Friend:

“For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death. But there’s good news: If you’re vaccinated, you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death, period. Booster shots work. … Boosters are free, safe and convenient.” – President Biden, December 16th, 2021

PFIZER COVID-19 PILL SEES REAL SUCCESS

As I’ve emphasized from the beginning of this awful pandemic, let’s always follow the science. With that said, great news from Pfizer this week. It was reported that their new COVID pill – medically known as Paxlovid – reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in a clinical trial of some 2,200 folks. They have since asked the FDA for an emergency use authorization (EUA) so that the pill can be developed and distributed nationwide. On a quick aside, be sure to get your booster if you haven’t already. It really is added protection against a number of variants and will keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season. You can find appointments for your booster HERE. You can also watch former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on the urgent need to get your booster ASAP HERE.

Let’s face it – COVID cases really are out of hand in Michigan, largely since many have refused to be vaccinated. Hospitals are full (more than 90% of those in dire condition are unvaccinated), healthcare workers are overwhelmed, and too many folks are needlessly dying from this terrible virus. You can read more HERE. This surge has certainly had a heavy impact on our healthcare heroes who have – quite literally – worked day and night to save lives. The pressure on them is just immense. That’s why I was glad to see the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Worker Protection Act pass the House last week. You’ll remember from last week’s KT that Dr. Breen was a frontline healthcare worker in New York City at the outbreak of the pandemic. Tragically, in April of last year, she took her own life. There have been too many examples of healthcare workers suffering from enormous pressure as they fight the worst public health crisis in 100 years. This legislation will help promote mental and behavioral health for health professionals, improving their overall wellbeing, and, perhaps, even saving their own lives. You can watch my full House Floor speech from last week HERE.

Yesterday, I zoomed with a number of Pfizer employees confirming that 21st Century Cures truly did enable them to see the approval of their vaccine many months earlier than it otherwise would have been and provided a quick update on H.R. 6000, Cures 2.0, which was introduced last month.

BUILD BACK BETTER SOCIAL SPENDING BILL FACES MAJOR HURDLES IN THE SENATE

As I noted months ago during an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, the partisan “everything including the kitchen sink” Build Back Better (BBB) spending extravaganza has really lost a good amount of steam in recent weeks as negotiations between Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate progressives have stalled. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently determined that this massive bill would add $3 TRILLION to our debt over the next 10 years. This is a cost that, ultimately, our kids and grandkids will have to pay off. That’s why I voted against this bill along with my Republican colleagues – and even a Democrat from Maine. It isn’t paid for as some have claimed and it really will worsen the existing inflation and supply chain crises we are already facing. You can read more HERE.

Remember, this legislation has nothing to do with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIF) that was signed into law several weeks ago. The BIF is solely focused on investments (paid for with offsets and without raising taxes) in our PHYSICAL infrastructure, which – let’s face it – is in pretty tough shape. This bipartisan legislation will provide Michigan alone with $7.3B to repair our roads, $1.3B to replace lead water lines and support water infrastructure improvements, $1B for public transport, $1B to protect and preserve the Great Lakes, $563M to rebuild our bridges, and $100M to expand broadband in rural and underserved communities.

ANNIVERSARY OF 21ST CENTURY CURES AND PFIZER VACCINE ROLLOUT

On Monday December 13th, we celebrated two important anniversaries that just so happen to fallImageon the same day. One year ago on Monday, the very first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were loaded on to trucks in Portage and transported to health facilities across the country as we began our campaign to get shots in arms. Now, more than 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID – a historic milestone, for sure. THANK YOU to the scientists, researchers, and healthcare workers who made all of this possible.

Five years ago on the very same day, President Obama signed Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) andmy21st Century Cures Act into law accelerating the discovery and approval of lifesaving drugs and devices, including the COVID vaccines that were approved some 8-10 months earlier as a result of 21st Century Cures, surely saving hundreds of thousands of American lives. Now, we’re laser focused on our second iteration – Cures 2.0 – which will build upon the tremendous success we had with 21st Century Cures.

Ultimately, with Cures 2.0, we want to find those “out of the box” breakthrough therapies that otherwise may never be discovered due to bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary delays. It would also expand genetic testing, particularly for pediatric illnesses, and incentivize R&D for antimicrobial resistance. We further have an emphasis on Real World Evidence (RWE) particularly for very rare diseases that often do not have the large subset of folks needed to conduct large clinical trials. With the use of RWE, we can really track and study the efficacy of these new drugs and treatments.

A number of other provisions include increased access to telehealth, training for at-home caregivers, clinical trial diversification to ensure that any new drugs are safe and effective for a greater and more representative portion of the population, conducting a nationwide study of long COVID effects, and developing a national testing and vaccine distribution strategy for future pandemics. You can read more about Cures 2.0 HERE.

The fact of the matter is that venture capital for new drugs and devices had long been shipped overseas to China and other places. We want these investments to be made right here in the United States for the good of innovation and health discoveries for Americans and their families. Cures 2.0 will continue to build upon this mission.

EPA ANNOUNCSE PLANS TO STRENGHTEN LEAD PIPE REGULATIONS

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that it would implement rules andImage regulations re: lead and copper contamination in drinking water that were introduced during the Trump Administration. These new rules require water utilities that surpass 15 parts of lead per billion in their water supply to work with state regulators to actively replace lead service lines. You can read more HERE.
You’ll remember that the BIF allocates some $15 billion for lead line replacement in communities across the country, including in Benton Harbor where crews have already begun replacing contaminated lines the last several months. I was in Benton Harbor back in November with Mayor Marcus Muhammad to get a firsthand look at lead line replacement efforts, which will surely be sped up by the money we’ve provided in the BIF. Yesterday, one of my staffers surveyed water testing efforts with the EPA in Southwest Michigan.

BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO STRENGHTEN DOMESTIC MANUFACTURING IN MICHIGAN AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY

On Tuesday, I helped introduce the Manufacturing.Gov Act, bipartisan legislation that would set up a website to connect our local manufacturers in Southwest Michigan with federal manufacturing programs and a host of other resources. It was passed in the Senate in October. It’s critical that we take steps today to secure our supply chain and bring manufacturing jobs back to Michigan and the United States.

This bipartisan bill will give our domestic manufacturers another ‘tool in the toolbox’ to optimize their daily operations, build products that Americans use every day, and create good-paying jobs. Strengthening domestic manufacturing, which has unfortunately declined over the last couple decades, is a top priority for me and a critical mission as we look to compete with China and emerge as a global and economic leader in the 21stCentury. You can read more HERE.

SECURING AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDECE

When I was Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we fought to make America energy independent with commonsense policies – and we succeeded. Powering our own country was always – and continues to be – a top priority for me. Unfortunately, over the last few months, the current Administration has resorted to importing oil and gas from the Middle East, Russia, and even China – not our closest allies, for sure – to try and solve their many energy policy blunders. These efforts are bad for our economy and threaten our national security.

As part of an “all of the above” energy plan, we should instead be encouraging American energy production here at home to lower gas prices and heating bills, which are set to rise as we enter the colder winter months. That’s why I helped introduce the Strategic Production Response Act with my Republican colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would protect our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for real emergencies and unleash the full potential of American energy development. You can watch my Floor speech HERE and read more about my Strategic Production Response Act HERE.

COMMONSENSE ELECTION REFORMS

Last week, the entire Michigan GOP delegation sent a letter to Michigan SOS Jocelyn Benson as to how election officials in our state authenticate ballots and ensure that our voter rolls are periodically checked and cleaned. The bottom line is that when folks in Michigan cast their ballot – whether it be a local, state, or federal election – they should be confident their vote is legally counted and our elections are administered fairly. We can all agree that folks who have moved away or passed away should be promptly removed from voter lists. It’s just common sense. You can read our full letter HERE.

Over the years, I have supported many pieces of legislation to help make it easier for folks to vote and harder for those few bad actors to cheat. I voted to allow folks to register to vote when they renewed their driver’s license and also support efforts to ensure that anybody who wants to vote by mail can do so. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and I will continue to support commonsense legislation that maintains local control of elections and expands opportunities for folks to cast their ballots on Election Day.

BIPARTISAN BILL AWARDING CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO 13 FALLEN SERVICEMEMBERS SIGNED INTO LAWImage

Yesterday, President Biden signed into law bipartisan legislation that posthumously awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 men and women in uniform who gave their lives protecting and evacuating Americans and our Afghan allies this past August. I was proud to support it.

This serves as a solemn reminder that our servicemembers sacrifice so much to protect and defend our country and our freedoms. This well-deserved medal is a small token of our gratitude for their service and sacrifice in the face of unthinkable danger. Our thoughts, of course, remain with their families. You can read more HERE.

BIPARTISAN LETTER TO THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ON THE SUPPLY CHAIN CRISIS

The supply chain crisis continues to threaten every sector of our economy from small businesses to large corporations and the millions of folks who rely on the timely delivery of everyday goods, particularly during the holiday season.

Earlier this week, I joined a bipartisan letter to the Biden Administration asking what they plan to do to ease port backups and labor shortages. A major priority we suggested was to operate every one of our major ports 24/7 to ensure goods that arrive at American ports are quickly delivered nationwide, and on the other hand, American goods that are set to be exported can be shipped off to foreign countries quickly as well. You can read our letter HERE.

The fact is that we need a concerted effort between the federal government and the private sector to fix our supply chain. Continued delays at our ports and a real shortage of truck drivers has caused prices to rise and inflation to skyrocket (a 39-year high of 6.8% reported last week)! Fortunately, the House has taken steps to address the problem. We recently passed the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which was introduced by my Problem Solvers Caucus colleague Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), that will help unclog our ports and hold Chinese freighters accountable that refuse to transport American goods. You can read more about this bipartisan bill HERE.

I would also note that this past week I taped a segment for CNN’s State of the Union with Dana Bash and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) that will run on Sunday December 26th focused on the need for bipartisanship. I also taped a segment with NBC’s Today show that will run on January 2nd focused on January 6th and again the need for bipartisanship in Congress. I’ll include links to those airings in the next KT.
 

On a final high note, I wanted to share this story of a local farmer and five other folks from Berrien Country who are heading to Kentucky to lend a hand following the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the state. This - among so many reasons - is why I love the good folks of Southwest Michigan. You can read the story HERE.

I hope you can safely get together with your family and friends over the next few weeks and share smiles and laughs.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

All the best,
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Fred Upton

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